Unanimous jury requirement headlines new laws for Louisiana

By David Jacobs | Watchdog.org Jan 2, 2019

Louisiana now requires unanimous juries for all felony convictions. The constitutional amendment approved by voters in November is the most prominent new state law that took effect on Tuesday.

Louisiana had been one of only two states along with Oregon that allowed for felony convictions by non-unanimous juries. A broad bipartisan coalition came together to bring Louisiana in line with the other 48 states and the federal court system.

Though the enabling legislation was authored by State Sen. J.P. Morrell, a New Orleans Democrat, and endorsed by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, the measure also was supported by many Republican officials and conservative-leaning organizations.

"I along with our governing body believe that in criminal cases, the verdict of the jury should be unanimous,” Andrew Bautsch, executive director of the Republican Party of Louisiana, said shortly after the GOP's Central Committee voted to support the measure.

The change applies to all felony trials in which the potential punishment is confinement at hard labor. Capital murder trials and six-member juries that handle lesser felony offenses already require unanimous verdicts. The change only applies to alleged offenses committed this year and beyond and does not overturn settled verdicts.

Other changes that went into effect this year include:

Public university student identification cards have to meet voter ID requirements.
Louisiana nursing home residents and their families have the right to have video monitoring systems installed in their rooms. A resident or family member must notify the nursing home and pay for the system. The law is meant to give families a way to check in on their loved ones and deter neglect and abuse.
Government agencies are required to have formal anti-sexual-harassment policies. Over the past two years, Johnny Anderson, a former aide to Gov. Edwards, and former Secretary of State Tom Schedler have stepped down amid harassment accusations.
Health insurers are required to cover follow-up screenings for certain breast cancer survivors.
Boat registration is now $9 more expensive.


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